The kids are back and they are sprinkled throughout the fleet. Owners such as Bill Turpin, Chip Megeath and Roy P. Disney R are happy to share the entire experience of sailing Transpac Race with young blood. The kids can be a little nervous at first, but by the time they hear their names called over Hawaii Yacht Club’s PA system welcoming each and every member of the crew to Ala Wai, they have adjusted. They have made it. It’s a rite of passage that they’ll never forget and a bond that they share instantaneously with the other young sailors wearing the identifiable Hawaiian crew shirts, who are circulating around the Aloha welcome parties at Hawaii Yacht Club, Waikiki Yacht Club and Transpac row.
Jesse Fielding, Jeremy Wilmot and Piet Van Os, with their lime green Pyewacket shirts and their necks laden with leis jumped off of the deck of Pyewacket to a waiting crowd. They went right to “Commander Branning” as Bill Turpin and the crew of Akela, the Reichel Pugh 78, which he navigated to Hawaii, had dubbed him.
“I was so excited, I wanted to jump on the boat when you came in,” said Branning to Piet Van Os, Pyewacket’s navigator and Branning’s best friend.
When Branning introduced his girlfriend to Van Os, Van Os extended his hand and introduced himself to her by saying, “Hi, I’m his other half.” The two former Morning Light co-navigators had the same wrist watches on their wrists, one wore it on the left hand and one wore it on the right.”
“I’m so happy for you, Bro,” said Commander Branning to Van Os, who despite losing a personal bet to Van Os about who would beat whom on corrected time, couldn’t wait to exchange stories with his buddy.
Jeremy "Troll" Wilmot and Jesse Fielding were in the circle with Van Os and Branning too. They compared this trip to last trip. “We didn’t starve this trip,” said Wilmot.
“Are you kidding?” said Fielding. “We had steak three nights in a row! And breakfast, Dude, we had omelets, bacon, pancakes, you name it!”
The fast friends who consider themselves as close as brothers, went into the tent for the Pyewacket party and were greeted by Fizz Foster, who, at that point, had recovered and was cleanly shaven. He had arrived the night before on Akela along with Branning.
A little while later, the younger squad from one of the Mexican boats, Ruahatu, who were still standing after their crew party that is renown for being one of the longest lasting and boisterous, crashed the Pyewacket party. Their ticket to entry was not just their age, it was the status of Flying Pollito. Erick Brockmann, who was too young to qualify for the Morning Light crew and had already had the experience of sailing a Transpac when the team was selected, had been affectionately known as Pollito, for his light colored skin and hair. During the race, he became a Transpac legend, by being one of a very small number of sailors who have gone overboard during their Los Angeles to Hawaii crossing. Once he was brought back onboard and the boat was back on course, one of his crewmates brought belly laughs to everyone when he elevated Ricky’s status to “Flying Pollito”.
Flying Pollito hasn’t quite grown comfortable with his new name. He still is reliving the memory of blowing the spinnaker tack during a gybe and being shot off the boat like a cannon when the loads were released from the spinnaker pole. He was torpedoed off the leeward side of the boat in the daylight and someone quickly threw the boat’s horseshoe life buoy overboard. Pollito, remembers stripping off his sailing gloves, boat shoes and shorts, because they were heavy. He also remembers seeing the boat sail away from him at quite a clip.
He didn’t panic. It was also fortunate that the team was in the middle of a sail change in 12-knot winds during daylight, so all hands were on deck and in their racing positions.
“I was really lucky,” said Flying Pollito. “I was only in the water for four or five minutes,”
Ask him how cold the water was a three-day sail off from the California coast and he’ll say, “I don’t know. I can’t remember, but the horseshoe got caught around the keel and we had to send someone over to get it off. Once he was back on board, he said the water was freezing.”
Flying Pollito, Jeronimo Mariscal, Andrew Morales “The Sleeping Guy”, Jorge Murrietta, Ricky “The Dectective” Brockmann and Flying Pollito exchanged stories with everyone in the Pyewacket tent, including Robbie Haines, who was eager to get to know the Mexican crew because he is planning on sailing an event in Acapulco.
By the time Flying Pollito’s story of fending off giant killer sharks with the horseshoe buoy had circulated throughout the Pyewacket tent, the famous Ruahatu crew mustered up the stamina to retell the dramatic legend to their Spanish friends from Charisma, who had just arrived on Transpac Row. That’s how the world grows smaller and friendships are built during the world’s most enduring and greatest ocean race.